Several theories are floating about in surcharged Dhaka about what could have led about 15,000 jawans of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) to mutiny against their seniors — most of who are the army’s top brass.
Theories aside, the fact is that the mutiny was a spontaneous outburst of hatred and anger against the army.
Over the past two years, when the army was virtually ruling the country under a caretaker regime, it had angered just about every section of the society and administration.
Popular resentment against the army was could be seen when local civilians egged on and cheered the border force personnel as they attacked army officers.
The jawans, mostly youths in their mid-twenties, came out of their barracks in a crowded area of Dhaka and unleashed their rage at what they called “army atrocities” on them.
“Our rebellion was not sparked in a day,” said a jawan to local television journalists who managed to get near the entrance of the sprawling BDR compound. “Army officers are the ones who are corrupt. Why has the anti-corruption panel prosecuted only politicians and civilians? It should have sent the army generals to jail,” he said.
The jawans also spoke of discrimination in pay and perks, repression of BDR personnel and arbitrary punishment by officers. “Our seniors, who are all from the army, torture and punish us routinely. They even strip us of our ranks and take half the rations allotted to us. If we protest, we are punished,” shouted another BDR jawan.
Though the BDR performs duties similar to those by the army, its personnel often work under extremely difficult conditions. BDR jawans are paid a pittance compared to their colleagues in the armed forces. Moreover, BDR officers can never make it anywhere near the top of the hierarchy because the positions are reserved for army officers.
In fact, several other outfits, including the prison department, are headed by army personnel, adding to the resentment.